Future of U.S. Mint?
Source: Numismatic News, David Harper (7/23/10)
"Should we fundamentally re-evaluate everything the Mint does?"
The Mint, as it currently exists, was organized—and its productive capacity built—to meet the astronomical coin demand in the age of vending machines and the replacement of silver coins with copper-nickel clad coins.
After the massive coin shortage of the 1960s, no Mint official ever wanted to be caught short again and has met most goals of its mission and added other goals on an ad-hoc, congressionally authorized basis (modern commemoratives and bullion coins).
The latest is the creation of a 5 oz., 3-inch (diameter) silver version of America the Beautiful quarters that's worth the same as a standard quarter. To say this strange numismatic beast wasn't planned is an understatement.
Is there a need for such a coin? The mandate came out of the blue; consequently, the Mint had to buy a new German press and install it at the Philadelphia Mint.
What about bullion coins? The Mint has rationed gold and silver American Eagle supplies on and off for two years, as it does not manufacture its own blanks.
Modern commemoratives no longer resonate with collectors. The excitement of the 1980s and the rage of the 1990s have given way to what could simply be called 'weariness.' Collectors will buy to the point of sellout, but only occasionally. Should the commemorative program be reduced to once yearly or be abolished? Should current bullion coins be considered commemoratives?
There is—or was—some logic to these programs, but what should be done for the future? Do we want to continue on this ad-hoc basis, or should we fundamentally re-evaluate of everything the Mint does?